Written by Allegra Korver
A peer-to-peer rental system specializing in outdoor gear.
Like many of the world’s good ideas, Noah Koch’s began as a problem—a big problem. A problem that found him, his dad, and two other guys climbing Mount Rainier with the wrong gear at the wrong price at the wrong time. It was all wrong, because the gear was not their own; and it was not their own, because transporting outdoor gear across the country is really expensive.
But, as they found out, renting sub-par gear locally is also really expensive, and potentially dangerous. What would have been simple at home in North Carolina, where all of their mountaineering gear was stored, was unreasonably difficult in Washington.
The Kochs’ Mt. Rainier problem birthed the idea that having the right gear on your adventure should not be in itself an adventure. And soon, that idea became an adventure of its own. Or, in this case, an Adrenture.
Founded in June of 2015, Adrenture is a simple idea: users of outdoor gear rent their gear to other users, peer-to-peer style. Think AirBnB, but for people who prefer the backcountry to the big city. And, like AirBnB, the process is easy to use and understand. First, people take pictures of their unused gear; then, they upload pictures and descriptions to the site after creating a profile. Users can then set their price (in addition to Adrenture’s markup), and, finally, approve or reject rent requests as they occur. PayPal insures all the transactions so there is no risk to those who upload items and, in the end, everyone benefits. Users make a few bucks from things sitting in a closet, and Adrenture receives a portion of the transaction.
Adrenture is the culmination of Noah Koch’s passions, heritage, goals, and education. It is no coincidence that his father, Thomas, led the expedition that sparked the original concept. Mr. Koch was an important part of both founding the company and fostering a passion for the outdoors in Noah. A retired member of the Swiss Army, Koch was an adventurer from the start. Early on, he strove to encourage Noah’s love of mountains as well as a thirst for risk. “I’m used to putting myself in harm’s way,” says Noah, referring to his mountain biking and climbing habits. But it is not hard to see that his meticulous focus on process and level-headedness in the face of danger—so important in risky outdoor pursuits—have translated well into the world of entrepreneurship.
It helps that Noah, a marketing major, also has access to the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian State University in Boone. The Center, as it is informally known, provides office space and expertise to student entrepreneurs at the university. Erich Schlenker, the director of the Center, proved invaluable to Noah and his team, both in terms of knowledge and connections. Fortunately, the Center is also closely associated with Appalachian’s Entrepreneurial Studies program, which is offered as a minor as of the 2016 calendar year.
It was an introductory class in this program, Opportunity and Entrepreneurship, that was the catalyst in transforming the Mt. Rainier idea into a reality. A simple question from the professor, Dr. Jesse Pipes—“What is your best idea and why?”—took Adrenture out of Noah’s head and into the classroom, where Pipes and his students were able to provide feedback and action items to start a real live business. Pipes invested time and resources into the budding business outside of class time, too, giving Noah advice on everything from seeking investors to filing taxes.
Taxes, as it turns out, are one of Noah’s least favorite parts about running Adrenture. The “daily grind” tasks that offer no immediate gratification have made owning a business challenging, especially when combined with the normal student obligations of homework and class, as well as fraternity and other university involvement. “We have to really focus on the small victories in order to stay motivated and stay focused,” says Noah. But he adds that he loves the work, too: “Every day is a new experience and a new learning opportunity… and when we do get those small wins, it’s a great feeling.”
Noah’s goals include putting more funding into marketing and “engaging more people who are passionate about the outdoors.”
The “we” Noah often refers to is a small but dedicated team of fellow students at Appalachian who pitch in to do the varied work that running a business involves. There is Chase Marshall, a childhood friend and computer science major with an eye for design; Kalin Rierson, a blogger and social media fiend; and Dillon Makar, who takes the striking photos used on the Adrenture website (www.Adrentures.com) and for advertising content. Out of the four, Noah owns 64%, Chase owns 1%, and Kalin and Dillon do it for resumes and portfolios. The other 35% of the company is owned by a small investment firm called Gold Sail Capital, which is based out of Indiana and run by Stephen Toyra, a Purdue graduate, and Paul Griggs, an undergraduate at Purdue. In fact, because of Toyra and Griggs, Adrenture has a dedicated team at Purdue that runs social media campaigns, serves as brand ambassadors, and in general provides support to the home team at Appalachian State.
It is fortunate that the Purdue team is younger overall, because all four of Adrenture’s team members are graduating in May of this year. The students in Indiana, as well as a handful of younger students the Boone team is recruiting, will provide a touch point with the critical college student market as Noah and company move off campus and into the “real” world. Noah, for one, has accepted a position with AETNA health care insurance beginning in June of 2016. He, Chase, and the Purdue team will continue to work part-time on Adrenture, which, while profitable, is not providing full-time incomes just yet. Looking forward, Noah’s goals include putting more funding into marketing and “engaging more people who are passionate about the outdoors.”
Noah Koch certainly embodies that passion for outdoor adventure. Even a brief conversation with him usually includes casual references to climbing in the Alps or mountain biking the Appalachians, or really any activity that can get him outside. But the passion does not stop there—Noah is deeply invested into facilitating transformative experiences for people who may not be able to afford them in the traditional market. Starting the Adrenture platform accomplished more than just solving a personal problem or making a buck; it made, and is making, the great outdoors a more accessible place for the adventurous.
Allegra Korver is a double major in marketing and business management and a Walker Fellow at Appalachian State University..